Wednesday, 9 November 2011
Department of Justice, Equality and Defence
Irish Red Cross
Question 153: To ask the Minister for Defence if following his letter to the chairman of the Irish Red Cross of 16 July regarding corporate governance issues the society has now considered a more comprehensive reform of its corporate governance arrangements; his views on the fact that the current vice chairman of the IRC is still serving in that position for the 21st year in a row, that the current treasurer in that position for ten years in a row and both on the executive committee for 21 and ten years respectively; his further views on whether this arrangement is in line with best practice corporate governance guidelines; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33562/11]
Question 154: To ask the Minister for Defence his views that the time is now appropriate for the vice chairman and treasurer of the Irish Red Cross to step down from their positions in order to allow for a more reasonable turnover of personnel at leadership positions within the IRC; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33582/11]
Question 155: To ask the Minister for Defence if consideration has been given to incorporating term-limits and retrospection of service for members of the Irish Red Cross executive committee in the amendments to the Irish Red Cross Order 1939; when he expects to bring forward the draft legislation on the Red Cross to Cabinet for approval; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33583/11]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 153 to 155, inclusive, together.
The Irish Red Cross Society is an independent charitable body corporate which, in accordance with relevant legislation, is responsible for handling its own internal affairs. On 16 May 2011, I wrote to the Chairman of the Irish Red Cross Society regarding corporate governance, emphasising my views on turnover and rotation at leadership levels in the Society. I did so as I am of the opinion that it is not conducive to good corporate governance that any individual should serve indefinitely on the Central Council or the Executive Committee, or in the same appointment. The Chairman, in his response, advised me that the issue of turnover and rotation at leadership levels was raised by him at a subsequent Central Council meeting and that agreement was reached on a mandatory three-year break, or one full-term break, for Executive Committee members in circumstances where a member may have previously served for two full terms.
The requirement for a break in service after two three-year terms will apply to any position on the Executive Committee and therefore, it will not be possible to serve two terms in one position and then a further term immediately afterwards in another position on the Committee. With regard to the length of time that the Treasurer of the Society has served, I am informed by the Society that whilst the person in question has been elected to the Society's Executive Committee for the past ten years, he was first elected as Treasurer in 2009 and, earlier this year, was re-elected for a third term in this position.
Following my letter, I subsequently met with the Chairman and the Secretary General of the Society. The matters raised in my letter were discussed and the progress that the Society has made in relation to governance reform was outlined. Overall, it was a very positive meeting; I offered my support to the Chairman and the Secretary General in their efforts and I anticipate that further progress in this regard will be made in the coming months.
When the Office of the Attorney General has finalised its work on the proposed amendments to the 1939 Order, I will bring the draft legislation to Government for approval. Regardless of whatever changes are made to the 1939 Order, a comprehensive review of all Red Cross legislation, and in particular the primary legislation, will then be commenced in accordance with a commitment given in the Programme for Government.
Question 156: To ask the Minister for Defence following his comments to the Joint Committee on Justice, Equality and Defence last July regarding his grant-in-aid to the Irish Red Cross, if he will confirm that the grant will be paid this year; the total amount of this grant; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33584/11]
My Department pays an annual grant to the Society of €951,000 which includes the Government's annual contribution (currently €130,000) to the International Committee of the Red Cross. The balance of the grant goes towards the salary and administration costs of running the headquarters of the Irish Society. The grant for this year has been paid in full. I am satisfied that the annual grant paid by my Department is properly accounted for and used for its intended purpose. However, in light of recent controversies, I recently asked the Chairman of the Society for assurances in this regard and for information about how the grant is utilised. Comprehensive and satisfactory answers were provided by the Chairman.
Question 157: To ask the Minister for Defence his views on claims made at a recent meeting of the Committee of Public Accounts that overseas aid donations to the Red Cross have been retained in Red Cross domestic accounts; if he is satisfied as to the use of international aid donations made to the Red Cross; if the IRC have specific policies in place for the handling of such donations; if he will confirm that any unspecified aid donation made at a time of a major disaster appeal goes into the general domestic fund; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33585/11]
The Irish Red Cross Society is an independent statute based charitable organisation with full power to manage and administer its affairs through its governing body, the Central Council. The Irish Red Cross Order 1939, which established the Society in Ireland, does not make any provision for the Government to intervene in the day to day administration of the Society. Furthermore, there is an obligation on Governments to protect the independence of national Red Cross organisations. My Department was made aware of allegations relating to the misallocation of funds by the Irish Red Cross Society particularly in relation to the Haiti appeal through correspondence dated 30 November 2010. The letter to the then Minister referred to enclosed copies of letters sent to the Chairman of the Society and its external auditors, which outlined the substance of the allegations. My Department is satisfied that the manner in which the Society allocates unspecified donations is in conformity with standard practice by Red Cross societies across Europe. My Department is also aware that the Chairman of the Society has strongly refuted the allegations and that the Society's external auditors found the allegations to be groundless.
Question No. 158 withdrawn.